Ditching the Diet: Finding Your Food Chill

Some of the questions I get asked the most when people want to talk about quitting the diet mentality are around the same theme, how have my eating habits changed?  My favourites are: 

So, do you just eat everything?
How do you know when to stop?
Do you just binge all the time?
Do you eat junk food all the time now you can?
I'd never stop eating! How do you make yourself stop?
I'd be obese by now if I stopped dieting, how have you not ballooned? 

Wow. It's a lot to take in but these are all questions that I had floating around in my head before I took this path, so I'm always happy to talk about it and address people's questions about life after dieting ends. 

The simple response is that you listen to your body, which sounds woo-woo, but when it boils right down, this is the underlying power - listening to the engine which fires the machine. However, what I will admit is that it's not easy to listen to at first; it takes time, patience, support, coaching and a big dose of being nice to yourself. 

You also have to be prepared to make yourself a bit uncomfortable. You have to push yourself a bit which can be very unpleasant and scary, and it's important to do it slowly so it's not unsafe for you. There's no time limit involved in resolving your relationship with food and your body, so it's important not to measure yourself with others on the same journey, or pressure yourself to be 'fixed' immediately. You won't be. You'll have awful days. You'll sit and Google weight-loss tricks before you've even realised what you're doing. You'll not want to leave your lounge pants because you won't like what you look like in your clothes. You'll consider a tea cleanse (as 'it's not really dieting, it's just detoxng!')  You'll be angry at yourself. You'll force yourself to do some strange things but you do it at your own pace, in your own space and test the waters carefully. 

Let me tell you some of the things I've experienced with food over the last year whilst trying to find my food chill.  

I had the period at the beginning where I felt I ate EVERYTHING because I damn well could do, thanks! 

It's an over exaggeration; I didn't, but at the time a Pain au Chocolat for breakfast three days running felt like the most extravagant thing I could do. But this was my perception at the time. To other people (and myself now) this is a whole pile of 'big fucking deal, you ate pastry, OH THE HUMANITY!' but to me I was gorging on fat; it felt rebellious but (and this was interesting) I didn't feel guilt, I enjoyed those breakfasts. I didn't see that coming. 

I began eating 'danger' foods just to see if I could do

Let me clarify what a 'danger' food is here. To me this is a food which I have demonised so much that I cannot imagine why I'd eat it. These are often foods which come with these thoughts: 'it will make me fat', 'it's too many calories in relation to content', 'it's too high in sugar', 'it's not one of my 5 -a-day', 'I haven't earned it' and so on. 

Do you know what my biggest danger food was? Brace yourselves ... Heinz Tomato Soup. I'm not even joking. 


I demonised this can of soup like a woman possessed. Why would I eat that when I can have soup for a quarter of the calories? The simple answer here is because it's FUCKING DELICIOUS and those extra 300 calories making it very satisfying and a decent meal. I bought a 4 pack of this soup and ate a can a week for a month as a meal. The world did not fall in, my pants still fitted me and I didn't feel sick afterwards. Isn't that interesting? What I thought would ruin me actually felt really good in my body. Leading nicely on to ... 

I decided to try and challenge my food assumptions

Having done every diet known to humanity over the last 15 years, there's one I never touched as it seems like total madness: high carbs. I mean, what? That's not a weight loss thing. It can't be. Carbs have the worst rep in the diet world ever, which is a shame as I love them, so they automatically come with a large dose of guilt and uncomfortableness after I consume them. I decided to see what would happen if I ate them without seasoning them with guilt. I ate bagels for breakfast, rice for lunch, potatoes for dinner (seriously, just a big plate of potatoes). Again, the world didn't fall in, my pants still fitted, I gained energy, I lost all urges to snack and my sugar levels balanced out. Huh. Carbs for the win, then! 

In turn, this has reduced my meat consumption, as it turns out I used to eat it every day to make sure my protein macros were high enough (I can't even, you guys, I sound so dumb) not because I enjoyed it. I'm qualified in diet and nutrition, I KNOW you don't need to eat meat to have enough protein in your body, but for some reason my years of dieting and analysing my food had overwritten what I'd learned whilst studying. There is no other word for it: it's madness. It's also reduced my caffeine intake as, surprise, I used that for weight loss purposes too. I wouldn't have known either of these things unless I'd started to listen to my body and challenge the habits and choices that I'd automatically make on a daily basis.  

So, as I said at the beginning, finding your food chill is all about listening to your body. Learning to do that is hard and I'm still learning every single day. There's foods I thought I liked and disliked for so many reasons but as it turns out, it was for weight loss. Even habits that I thought were authentically mine were not, they were a result of diet culture. In the same way that you can look at a person and judge their lifestyle based on their appearance, I did that with food and just like the majority snap judgements, they were often wrong. 

I've had to start from the ground up here. I've had to relearn what food I like, and I mean REALLY like (and dislike for that matter). I have to challenge my assumptions and beliefs; ask myself about my choices and thoughts surrounding food before consuming it. I have to just go with my body sometimes and just feed it what it wants and not judge it, question it, criticise it or cover it in shame and guilt. It's an engine that requires fuel and I cannot tell it what is right and wrong; I have to let it tell me. 

Before you make a New Year's Resolution to lose 15 pounds in 2016, give yourself a gift instead: self-awareness, peacefulness, thoughtful silence, anything to get you listening to your body. Your body won't fuck you over or trick you into eating 'badly' if you listen to it authentically; it will tell you want it wants and needs. The rest of the noise is just pointless gossip. 

I hope you find your chill. 

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